One of my bookish friends posted this graphic on Facebook yesterday. It points to something we all know: most people aren’t reading books. For my book-loving crowd, this is cause for hand-wringing and lament, a call to change things. But is it?
I love books. Absolutely and madly. Just the sight of them makes me happy. There’s nothing better than getting lost in a world that’s new and unexpected, living a thousand different lives. But I’m also a pragmatist. If something isn’t being done by a majority of the population, should we assume they’re missing something and redouble our efforts to force them to, or should we understand that there are many different paths to the same enjoyment?
You’re here reading, so you’re probably on the book side (I assume). And I am too. But, fundamentally, what’s great about books is really the ability to get lost in a story. Story is as old as we are, way back before the days of paper and printing. We sat around the fire and talked about the hunt. Great epics were recited and passed down for hundreds of years before anyone thought to write them down. Mothers have lulled their children to sleep with tales since time immemorial.
We live in a time when the delivery mechanism for story is evolving. Not only can you read a story in an electronic device instead of a paper one, but you can watch it on a screen or you can interact with it in a game. You can stream it, download it, binge watch it or listen to it. Is the experience different? Maybe. But the fundamentals are the same. We learn empathy, we expand our idea of what’s possible and we feel the delight of living in someone else’s skin. We fall in love with a story. That’s as old as humanity itself and it’s not going away any time soon.